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House GOP blasts ‘joke’ loan to Ukraine in latest blow to Johnson’s foreign aid plan

By Rachel Schilke

Hard-line House Republicans are coming out in strong opposition to House Speaker Mike Johnson‘s (R-LA) four-pronged foreign aid package, particularly over a stipulation in the Ukraine aid bill that the loan can be canceled by the president in a few years — a move that some are calling a “joke.”

Johnson’s long-awaited four-bill foreign aid package, for which text was released on Wednesday, includes aid to Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific, all in separate bills. As part of the Ukraine bill, nearly $7.9 billion will be provided to Ukraine under the “Economic Support Fund,” and nearly $1.57 billion will be provided for “Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia” to Ukraine and other countries.

A breakdown of the package from the speaker’s office and House Appropriations Committee touts Ukraine aid as a “loan” and says the legislation “mandates agreement on repayment for economic support by the government of Ukraine.”

However, buried in the text is a section that stipulates that the president can cancel up to 50% of the loan after Nov. 15, 2024, with congressional review. After Jan. 1, 2026, any remaining debt can be canceled.

The bill itself, as well as the loan repayment, angered some House GOP members who believe the United States won’t see any money return.

“I think it’s a joke,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) said to the Washington Examiner. “They’re not gonna pay us any money. We’re gonna rebuild that country afterwards, probably, or part of it.”

He added that he thinks several House Republicans are going to vote for the Ukraine bill and use the loan to “justify it.”

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said in a post to X that the loan for Ukraine is “all smoke and mirrors” and blasted the president’s ability to cancel 50% of the loan by this November, adding that “no bank would allow this.”

The passage of Ukraine aid could cost Johnson his speakership, as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) continues to hold her motion to vacate, which she filed last month, over his head. She previously said how Johnson handled Ukraine aid and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization would dictate how she moves forward with the motion to vacate.

“Monday was Tax Day. So as Americans were paying their hard-earned tax dollars to this government, the Republican speaker, hinging his entire ability to stay speaker on sending $64 million to Ukraine — I can’t think of a worse betrayal ever to happen in the United States history,” Greene told reporters on Thursday.

The decision to include debt cancelation is a sign that House GOP leadership is putting some distance between the foreign aid package and former President Donald Trump’s demands over how to handle Ukraine aid, as it becomes more clear that Johnson needs bipartisan support to push his four-pronged plan over the finish line.

Trump, who has shown several times his influence stretches over the House GOP, said during a meeting with Johnson last week that Republicans should push for making additional aid to Ukraine “in the form of a loan rather than a gift.”

In a post to Truth Social on Thursday, he blasted the United States for its financial involvement in the country’s war against Russia compared to other nations.

“Why isn’t Europe giving more money to help Ukraine? Why is it that the United States is over $100 Billion Dollars into the Ukraine War more than Europe, and we have an Ocean between us as separation! Why can’t Europe equalize or match the money put in by the United States of America in order to help a Country in desperate need?” the former president said.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Johnson said that adding the loan forgiveness provision might be a “very important chip in a game” down the road, such as brokering a peace deal.

“That might be an important thing to have, an important option for the president to have, and I think that makes sense to Republicans and Democrats,” Johnson said. “We would want the Commander-in-Chief to make those decisions, and then Congress, of course, has oversight over all of it, so I think it’s a good policy.”

President Joe Biden came out in strong support for Johnson’s foreign aid package on Wednesday, calling on the House and Senate to pass the bills and stating he would sign it into law “immediately.”

The ability to cancel up to 50% of the economic support loan to Ukraine is a win for Democrats and Biden, who has made loan cancellation for student debt a key component of his presidency and his reelection campaign. Just days after the election in November, Biden would be able to forgive half of the U.S.’s loan to Ukraine.

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) also called the loan forgiveness a “joke,” adding “it’s not real.”

“First of all, the bill as it’s written gives Biden the ability to waive 50% of it anyway,” Good said to reporters on Wednesday. “This is the guy who wants to waive all student loans — why wouldn’t he waive Ukraine’s loan? And you know, we got a long list of nations who haven’t paid us back money that was supposedly loaned to them, so.”

Some Republicans in the Senate are not too pleased with the framework of Johnson’s Ukraine aid bill, as well. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told the Washington Examiner he thought the loan idea was a “little gimmicky.”

“And maybe I don’t understand it well enough,” Hawley said. “So, I’ll try to do my homework here, but I don’t know — if they can repay the loan, would they be asking for the money? I mean, they’re not going to repay it.”

“You may as well just call it what it is, which is an outlay. I mean, it’s just spending,” the Missouri senator added. “But, again, maybe I’m missing some profound nuance.”

The Washington Examiner reached out to Trump for comment.

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